|When in Bali, polish your cooking skills|
The delicious smell if chicken satays being barbecued on a small outdoor grill is wafting towards me as I sit at a long table enjoying a refreshing Bintang (beer).
It’s hot and humid but a soft breeze waft up from the valley floor below, helping to keep me cool after a few hours spend chopping, mixing, pounding and cooking.
I am at the Paon Bali Cooking School at Laplapan, near Ubud, in Bali and I am about to enjoy the fruits of my labour.
My culinary adventures started early, when my friend and I were pickup a 8.30am from our hotel in Ubud and driven the short distance to the Village’s bustling and colourful markets.
Its here host Puspa Subawa takes us on an informative market tour, showing us basket after basket of colourful Balinese spies, exotic fruits and vegetables, fish and meat. It’s a riot of color and activity and lost of fun.
Puspa’s husband Wayan then drives us of Ubud to a stretch of countryside where endless green rice padis ( fields ) dominate the landscape.
It’s then back to Puspa and Wayan’s house where are welcomed with a refreshing cool drink or a cup of strong coffee.
Puspa and Wayan have built a magnificent outdoor kitchen and seating area at the rear of their house. There are breathtaking views, an organic vegetable garden and we meet Puspa and Wayan’s extended family.
It’s then down to the serious side of the day – preparing and cooking a feast of traditional Balinese dishes.
We learn how to make authentic coconut oil and we are all allocated a job – it’s all very hands-on.
Traditional ingredients like garlic, chilli, galangal, turmeric, ginger, shrimp paste, salam leaves, palm sugar, lemongrass, candlenut and shallots form the base of many of the dishes and we chop and dice and grind these aromatic spices an a mortar and pestle and then we are ready to tackle the cooking.
On the menu today is spicy clear mushroom and vegetable soup, boiled chicken an coconut milk, boiled vegetables in peanut sauce, fresh vegetables in Balinese spices, chicken satays and, for dessert, boiled banana in palm sugar sauce,
We wrap fish in banana leaves and we learn how to make tofu curry and how to fry tempe to a gorgeous golden brown and the aromas are sending our taste buds into overdrive.
Puspa is an attentive host, guiding us through earch process with skill and lost of humour.
Soon it’s time to eat and we are all excited.
Everything is presented beautifully, the food is a work of art and we have all contributed our talents to this feast.
Puspa has been a keen cook since she was a little girls.
“My dad was the best cook in my village,” she gleams.
“I was teaching cooking classes at a hotel in Ubud whe I decided to start my own cooking school.
“Paon has only been operating for a year but it’s been fantastic and we have had a great response.
Afte lunch, Puspa gives us all a copy of the recipes and I am determined to show of my newly found culinary skills when I get home.
I’m not a particularly keen cook but the day has been one of the highlight of my trip.
I have loved every minute and I have particularly loved meeting Puspa and Wayan.
They are gracious host, in credibly knowledgeable and friendly, and I can highly recommend the class.
For more information on the Paon Bali Cooking School go to www.paon-bali.com
The cost is 300.000 rp (about $32) and pick-up is also available island wide.